As I tucked my daughter in her bed last night, she was a little weepy. As an education professional devoted to happy, healthy, and educated kids I probably should have figured things out right away. But as a mom, I was just hoping to get her tucked into bed so she wouldn’t be tired in the morning. However, after a few moments I realized that my sweetie may have been experiencing a kid-sized dose of holiday stress.
Kids are not immune to the stress that the Christmas season can sometimes bring. They take cues from the adults around them and some of us may be stretched pretty thin in December. Also, kids thrive on routine. All of the things that break up the usual schedule may be extremely fun but they are still a move away from the comfort of familiarity. Often these changes in schedule involve late nights, skipped naps, changed meal times and very little alone time. From infant to adult, the Christmas season is one that can bring challenges.
Other kids may not show stress in the same way that my daughter did. My youngest tends to act out or whine when stressed. Other kids may mention a tummy ache or lose their appetite. Some kids have an easy tell like nail biting or fidgeting when stressed. It is important to slow down enough to notice the cues that our kids are sending.
For my daughter, the stress came from not knowing what to expect. She knew we had some fun plans for the next few days but didn’t know what would happen and when. We spent some time talking about Christmas gatherings and which family members would be at each event. We talked about what we would eat and even what time we would go to Christmas Eve service at church. That did the trick for her! She was quickly ready for visions of sugarplums to dance through that thought filled head of hers.
Some other strategies to prevent or reduce stress for kids include: ensuring that kids are eating pretty well, following routines when possible, being aware of your own stress, finding moments for the family to rest and of course talking about what your child is feeling. Learn what helps your child unwind and remind them to do it. A hot shower, listening to music, drawing or coloring, petting the cat, for example. My youngest doesn’t seem to be the least bit stressed about upcoming changes in routine or wondering what will happen but I can almost guarantee that by December 26 she will need a few moments alone to curl up with a good book!
Take care of yourself. Take care of your kids. Enjoy Christmas. I’ll be spending it with two happy girls (most of the time) and many other family members, remembering the true reason that we celebrate Christmas. I wish you and yours the merriest of Christmases.
-Heather DeWit, Director of Childcare and Education Services